See a Collection of Jewelry From 20th-Century Socialites

The Duchess of Windsor wearing the Prince of Wales brooch on her egret feather, 1957. Photo: Courtesy Sotheby’s

What made 20th-century society ladies so fun to look at was, in part, their seemingly never-ending collection of jewelry. Seriously, were diamonds free back then? The new book 20th Century Jewelry & the Icons of Style, out September 27 from Thames & Hudson, compiles timeless photographs (many by Cecil Beaton) of famed society women like opera singer Maria Callas and the Duchess of Windsor, as well as their extensive jewelry collections.

From the iconic Bulgari snake design to flamingo and dragonfly brooches (so ’50s), the jewels were as colorful as the women who wore them. Click ahead to preview the book and step back in time to the days when jewelry boxes held 47-carat yellow diamonds from Harry Winston.

See a Collection of Jewelry from 20th Century Socialites